Food For the Soul
We are what we eat
The Parsha Re’eh mentions the kosher dietary laws.
We are all familiar with the phrase “You are what you eat. Ubiquitous as it may be, it is not so far from the truth. According to Kabbalah, everything which we consume not only becomes part of us physically, but also spiritually.
If we take a look at the kosher animals, for example, deer, sheep and cows, we find that they are naturally timid, modest, non-predatory, quiet animals. The birds which are kosher are those which are not birds of prey. We see that at the simplest level the characteristics of kosher animals are those that we would seek to emulate — peaceful, modest, non-predatory, “civilized” creatures.
The Torah teaches us the signs to look for on a kosher animal; namely, that it should chew the cud and that it should have cloven hooves. What do we learn from the idea of chewing the cud? That we do not say immediately what we think, that we do not always act on impulse. We “chew things over,” we consider carefully before acting. What about cloven hooves? A cloven hoof has a split in it — the hoof is connecting the animal with the ground but at the same time, there is a distinction, a separation. This mirrors our approach to the physical world. We have to be involved in mundane, material affairs — but we also maintain a conscious separation, a realization that there is something more beyond the physical world, a higher dimension, a spiritual dimension.
So much of Jewish life revolves around food. The Torah gives us ways to elevate this otherwise routine aspect of our lives, to infuse it with holiness, and to learn from it.
Condensed from an article by Rabbi Mordechai Wollenberg
This Shabbat is Shabbat Mevarchim (the Shabbat that blesses the new month). A special prayer is recited blessing the Rosh Chodesh (“Head of the Month”) of the upcoming month of Elul, which falls on Thursday and Friday of next week.
Prior to the blessing, we announce the precise time of the molad, the “birth” of the new moon. It is a Chabad custom to recite the entire book of Psalms before morning prayers, and to conduct farbrengens (chassidic gatherings) in the course of the Shabbat.
Mind Over Matter
The Mirror Effect
If you see the faults of another person and they don’t leave you alone, look inside. We are all mirrors for one other. This is G‑d’s great kindness to us, for without this mirror-effect how would we ever be able to determine what needs repair?
Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
G-d will reveal Himself
In these difficult times there is no shortage of apocalyptic predictions on social media and in popular fiction. But, writes Rabbi Aron Moss, “the Jewish view of the end of days differs greatly from other apocalyptic visions. It will not need to be violent, and there will be no need for more wars. Even the punishment of the wicked can happen by peaceful means…When the Messiah comes, G‑d will reveal Himself, His light will shine unblocked, the veil will be lifted, and we will see that it was His hand guiding the world all along. Nothing was random, nothing was a mistake, and everything was part of His ultimate plan.”
Have I got a Story
The game of life
A rabbi once placed an order with the town tailor for a new pair of trousers. Time schlepped; the tailor missed deadline after promised deadline. Finally, months after the delivery due date, the pants were ready.
True, they were a great fit, but the rabbi, piqued by the delay, decided to gently point out his displeasure. “Explain something please. G‑d took just six days to create the world, and you’ve taken nearly six months just on one pair of pants?” [Said the tailor] “Achh, how can you compare, just look at what a mess G‑d made… and look at this gorgeous pair of pants!”
To be Jewish is to complain about G‑d and to be secretly convinced that, given the chance, you could have done a better job.
Here’s my question on G‑d. In [the Parsha Re’eh], we start off with the immortal choice:, “Behold I place before you today the blessing and the curse,” i.e., good vs. evil, life vs. death. My Question: Don’t give me the choice; don’t create evil. You relax, let us relax and we’re all happy.
The great Chassidic master, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev, had a parallel complaint: “G‑d, it’s not fair. For a Jew to be confronted by evil, all he has to do is walk down Main Street and he’ll discover temptations by the wagonload, decked out in all their attractive permutations. Try to scare him onto the straight and narrow, and you have to direct him to some musty old book which details harrowing descriptions of the punishments of Hell. I promise you, G‑d, if you shoved the sights and sounds of Gehenna in plain view, and buried earthly temptations in some dusty old tome, nobody would ever be enticed to sin. It’s all Your fault!”
A few years ago, some of those bright sparks we employ to sit in the Education Department and issue amusing directives came out with a beauty: from now on no scores were to be kept when umpiring kids’ sports. Losing, competing and all those other nasty vices went against the latest political correctness manifesto.
I remember arguing at the time that if they were serious about the initiative they should abandon the goal posts (encourages short-term, selfish-oriented behavior), and, to develop it to it’s logical conclusion, put all the kids on the one team. The only problem was that the kids didn’t buy it.
Sports, by definition, are competitive. Without a method of keeping score, with no winner or loser, the exercise becomes pointless. It’s the same with life.
G‑d could have created all the angels he wanted, behaving in an exemplary fashion and scoring perfect 10’s every time. Instead he made us. We strive; we try. We win some. We lose some. When we get it right, we get advanced up the board a few spaces. Get it wrong and you’ll find yourself at the bottom of the slide, looking for a ladder to climb back up again.
The rewards of life are predicated on our defeating evil. For us to change, to grow, we need an opponent to wrestle with and ultimately defeat.
In the great game called life, evil represents the pawns coming at you. Vanquish them, reach the end of the board, and you’ll be crowned a Queen.
Rabbi Elisha Greenbaum